By Nitya Chakraborty
The meeting of the eight opposition parties held on June 22 at the NCP president Sharad Pawar’s residence has led to more confusion rather than facilitating the process of consolidation of the unity of the parties that are opposed to the continuation of the BJP in power at the centre. The move was primarily initiated by Yashwant Sinha, the recently installed vice president of the Trinamool Congress who wanted to put himself in the national limelight under the shadow of the Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is seen by many as the alternative to Narendra Modi in the coming Lok Sabha polls.
My own understanding is that Sinha overreached himself and this was not the plan of the poll strategist Prasant Kishor or the Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee. The move was made in a hurry and without proper consultations and preparations. The opposition has at long last got a political situation when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is the captain of the ruling BJP, is facing deep slide in his popularity and his huge fan base which was most vocal only a year back, is now reticent to behave like Modi bhaktas as they have been in the first six years since the coming to power of BJP at the centre.
This factor is most important as the additional votes due to Narendra Modi’s personal charisma as a strong leader contributed to the BJP victory in the last two Lok Sabha elections.BJP on its own has a support base of around 30 per cent while the combination of the anti-BJP regional parties and the Congress can very well add up to the percentage which will be much more than BJP, if proper strategy of alliance based on the ground reality in each state is followed.
What should be the contours of this opposition strategy for the next Lok Sabha elections? Two fundamentals have to be agreed. Number one, there cannot be a total alliance of the opposition parties. and also there can not be any viable alternative to Narendra Modi led BJP without the Congress. Taking these two basic issues in mind, the opposition can formulate its strategy.
First, the focus has to be shifted wholly on the coming state assembly elections, especially in Uttar Pradesh.In UP, Samajwadi Party is the main anti-BJP opposition party. SP and its president former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has to be given all assistance to emerge victorious in the assembly polls early next year. SP as the major party will have full powers in deciding on the nature of alliance. If SP and Congress come to some understanding, it is very good but if not, there should be no problem, the outcome of the assembly poll will determine the respective strength of the opposition parties when they face the coming Lok Sabha polls.
Similarly, the Congress is the main party of the opposition in the other states which are going for assembly elections early next year. These are Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. In all these states, Congress is the main opposition party which is in a position to challenge BJP. Congress as the leader, will be deciding about the alliance, if needed. Congress also will be the main party in the assembly elections to Gujarat and Himachal to be held at the end of next year.AAP may contest in Punjab and Gujarat but that should not disturb the main role which the Congress will function as the leading party fighting BJP.
This means that there has to be a sort of no vote to BJP type of campaigning in these poll bound states to bring the floating voters outside the dedicated BJP support base to the fold of the leading opposition party which has the potential to defeat BJP. This approach led to massive defeat of BJP in Bengal. Mamata herself was aware of the contribution of this movement in the last phase of Bengal elections.
So the best course for opposition will be to build first a front of non-BJP opposition parties under the leadership of Mamata and SharadPawar where apart from the traditional anti-BJP parties, there will be scope for the fence sitting chief ministers like Naveen Patnaik of Odisha, Jaganmohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh and Chandrasekhar Rao of Telangana to join. They are quite cagey about Congress but they might be receptive to Mamata. PK has helped Jaganmohan Reddy in winning the state assembly elections. He can surely play a positive role.
The basic approach of the opposition will be to work on the basis of maximum possible unity of the anti-BJP parties outside the Congress and then to work on an understanding with the Congress on a national plane. The ground reality of state politics has to be recognized. Those compulsions might lead to rivalries but that has to be recognised and roadmap has to be charted out accordingly.
Narendra Modi is a marathon runner and he works 20 hours a day sleeping only for three hours. He does not take defeat easily. He is repackaging himself after Bengal elections defeat. He is bent on proving that in the coming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Apart from holding already a series of meetings on UP, he is spending every day lot of his time on strategising how to win assembly elections. The UP battle is his own battle and he knows that any defeat in UP will make his third term at centre highly difficult.
First thing first. The opposition has to solely devote on how to defeat Yogi Adityanath and BJP in the coming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. That should be the one and only priority now. The monsoon session of Parliament will begin in July. There will be coordination of the opposition parties in and outside of Parliament. The tempo of agitation against the Modi government has to be raised but the opposition will get an unprecedented boost if BJP can be defeated in the coming assembly elections. Both Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar will do well to help Akhilesh in defeating the BJP. That will act as the game changer in Indian politics before Lok Sabha polls facilitating the process of effective unity against the Modi regime. (IPA Service)